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[The first and last part of this letter are missing;
probably it was the answer to the remittance of January
You will say that I write pretty often. I can't help it, for
as you have taken me into your confidence, I must tell you that
it touched me very deeply. It is curious in such cases, that it
is so very difficult to know how far one must go. You, too,
will experience this. One asks oneself, “Must I help this
woman and, for the rest, see her only as a friend, or must I
choose this woman for my wife, with whom I want to live forever
- is she or isn't she the one?”
I think you have not been without this struggle, and perhaps
are still in the midst of it. It would seem rather unnatural to
me if it were otherwise.
I, at least, had that struggle, and it was so difficult that
for myself I could not answer those questions when
circumstances forced me to make a decision.
For I thought, I do not have the means to maintain two
separate households, but perhaps I have them for one,
and so I must tell her how things are, what I might be able to
do and what I certainly could not do. Perhaps we'll be able to
struggle through together, but I haven't enough unless we live
together. Perhaps the struggle is similar for you, but in a
different form. I remember a saying of yours last year which I
thought very correct and true, “Marriage is such a queer
thing.” Yes, indeed, it certainly is. Then you said to
me, “Do not marry her,” and I admitted then that
circumstances were such that it was better not to talk about it
for the time being. And you know that since then I have not
mentioned it again, but she and I have remained true to each
other. And just because I cannot think you were wrong in saying
then, “Do not marry her,” I give you your own words
to consider; and besides, you will think of it yourself, for it
is not I who say so, but you yourself. And I remind you of it
only because I think it was well it didn't take place at once.
Don't let that idea go, for it is a good thing for love to
ripen, so that marriage becomes subordinate to it. It is safer
and it doesn't hurt anybody.
First of all, I want to tell you one thing which will be
perfectly obvious to you. Whether it gets you in trouble or
not, I respect the noble feeling which prompted you to help
her, and because I respect it, I hope you will think me worthy
of your confidence even though you may encounter greater or
However, I do not take a melancholy view of the matter, but
am quite hopeful of a good result - that is, happiness for you
and for her. But I repeat - it is probable that sooner or later
a crisis will occur, arising from a kind of mutual
disappointment - if there were a child, it would be a kind of
lightning rod for you both. But in your case there isn't, so
especially when the crisis comes - not now, but
later - confide in me and consult me; for there are
cliffs on which, alas, many a love is wrecked which might have
been saved. When one has got past those rocks, a period of
clear sailing follows.
Though I have written you often, I am very hard at work. I
cannot tell you how I long to speak with you about many things.
Tomorrow I get a sou'wester for the heads. Heads of fishermen,
old and young, that's what I have been thinking of for a long
time, and I have made one already, then afterward I couldn't
get a sou'wester. Now I shall have one of my own, an old one
over which many storms and seas have passed.
At this time, Vincent was 29 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 21 January 1883 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 261.
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